28 July 2013

Review of Flush Doggy Poop Bags

I have been flushing Thane's poop since shortly after moving to this complex in December due to the difficult access for leaving my apartment and dealing with garbage. It just made more sense to me to just flush it. I still had to throw the collection bag away. I was thrilled when I read a blog entry about using flushable poop bags. It actually evaluated a number of them. I thought I had saved the link, but unfortunately, I can't seem to find it. GRRRR

I definitely had to try these out though. I researched a bit more on the various ones available thanks to google. Though my preference would be to use a product not made in China, I have had the opportunity thanks to Sharon at After Gadget blog to see both the positive and negatives of the entire process using flush doggy.

The first few times I used them, the poop bag went right down the toilet without any problems. After that, I began to encounter issues with the bag opening up and filling with air in the flush process which makes it act like a weight and thus unflushable without the use of a plunger and multiple flushes.

I searched the internet for a reason why this was happening hoping I would find a solution to this hiccup in the process. I stumbled upon a solution that works great if I can get the timing right. The solution was to wait to put it into the toilet until the water is actually going down the toilet and drop it directly over the hole. Being deafblind  I don't have such exactness in my timing. This is a great solution for the sighted, but for the blind it only works part of the time. Still, I think the flushable bags are worth it to me.

I've had Thane poop directly into a bag since a short while after I got him in 2007. For a time I used Dispoz-a-scoop that I got a pretty good price on through an online supplier. When the quality deteriorated significantly and I frequently got bags that the seams were not holding, I created my own frame to put veggie bags into and slip a couple of clips over the bag edge to hold the bag in place. It worked great to accommodate both my mobility and sight disabilities.

The flushable bags have a very small opening, not really designed with the concept of pooping directly into the bag. Thus far, however, we have managed to make them work with me just holding the bag open for him when we are at home.  If Thane were a larger dog, I don't think I would be able to do things this way. As it is, there are times when I wonder if its going to work.

If you are reading this and have MCS, I will say this much, the bags do have some smell to them due to materials required to make them disintegrate. As long as I wash my hands after I handle them (which should be done anyway), it has not been a problem for me, but I suspect they would be for some.

Even with these limitations, I will continue to use flushable poop bags for Thane.

26 July 2013

The Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

The Twelfth ADBC has concluded. I was excited to be hosting the July carnival. With July being such a special month for me with both my dogs transitioning to service dogs during this month, I just wanted this to be a great experience for me in sharing with you the partnerships I have had while also learning a little more about yours.

Though the outcome hasn't been what I anticipated probably due to the busy summer months, I hope you will all enjoy the submissions. Happy Reading!

L-Squared writes about the concept of being considered her guide's mom in her post Handler or Mom No matter which side of the coin you sway towards on this topic, it is a very thought provoking piece of writing by L-Squared.

I wrote two posts (one for each of my partnerships)

In Changing a Life, I write about just how dramatically my first combo service dog, Chimette (AKA Met) changed me as a person as we figured alternative ways to do basic foundation together-- bonding in the process, training, and working our tenure together until it was his time to go.

I changed a lot as a person, trainer, combo trained handler from the start of Met's life with me to the development of my partnership with Thane. In It's All About the Hard Traffic Check I share about the event that gave me the knowledge and confidence that we were no longer training, but a guide dog team.

I hope you enjoyed the posts. Next time it'll probably have a lot more variety when people are settled back into their normal routines.

23 July 2013

The Biggest Obstacle of All

I decided to go back through previous Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) topics and write what first comes to mind on them. This one on Obstacles had my mind going so I thought I'd put it all down here.

There've been other obstacles in my partnerships, but for this post I am going to focus on the medical side of things. Its not so much the actual medical problems that are/ were the obstacles, but the ineffective vets/ vets who stood in the way of diagnosing and getting my dogs back on their feet. What do they teach these people in Veterinary School anyway? How to party? OK that was probably uncalled for, but really when you seem to know more than the vets ALL the time-- sigh

A good vet who not only puts their education to work effectively, but understands the need to take a service dog partnership seriously (the entire scope of it) can be a great fortune to have. Unfortunately more and more individuals partnered with service dogs are having to fight for their vets to take their dogs health seriously  (not just placating symptoms that they failed to diagnose the cause of).

I won't go into actual diagnoses of my dogs, but instead focus on how this ineffectiveness has impacted my independence and life.

I have never had a vet who really got the entire scope of a service dog partnership - ie how much their health impacts my independence (including the treatment plans). I've educated until I was blue in the face with some to no avail (even getting the DVD from IAADP for my last vet) For a while, she seemed to get it, but near the end it was clear that she was treating Thane even more like a pet than when he first began working for me. My needs were rarely considered. In fact, Thane was partially retired twice because of her inability to treat him (treated the labs instead)

Illness happens and we, partnered with service dogs, have to take the appropriate steps while it is present. This means using other modes to accommodate our disabilities. It does mean, in many cases, that independence is lost.

I have multiple disabilities that were dramatically impacted by Thane's inability to work, not once but twice in a period of two years. I had to navigate in public solo which was downright dangerous for an individual who is deafblind. I also had to  rely upon store employees for shopping help. This dramatically lengthened my outings, causing numerous health complications from exposure and oxygen deprivation due to much more lengthy use of my respirator mask. Not only was our partnership on the back burner so to speak, but my health was impacted so dramatically that it made it very difficult for me to take care of Thane's health requirements. Sometimes a vet will do everything right and still this happens, but that wasn't the case for us.

The first time I was able to excuse her due to the lower incidence of Lyme in our area. In hindsite though, I completely described the tick incident (not knowing it was a tick) so there really was no excuse for his mounting symptoms to be dismissed. From the ring formed rash after the tick fell off, to wandering lameness, to diarrhea, to skin infections, to visual and hearing deficits, eventually he developed seizures. Though I got the diagnosis and treatment, the stress and deterioration of our partnership and his inability to work, were astronomical.

Even when he was functional enough to work, he was not at the level of the dog I had before. Some skills were completely lost while others I felt like we were a green team once again. It wasn't just the public access assistance that I lost. I lost my home hearing dog as well as help in activities of daily living from dressing to transferring stability, to the ability to handle refrigerator needs, to help with the laundry- all of this was lost for various lengths of time.

When we were finally working part time again, it was very part time because Thane's eyes were impacted due to the delay in diagnosis. As long as it wasn't raining hard, he could work pared with my tactile mobility aid to *trust, but verify* his decisions. It made working with him difficult at best, but it also had an emotional toll, that of not knowing if it would ever get any better. Fortunately they did, but I will always have to be vigilante with him since his Lyme could relapse again due to the late stage diagnosis and cyst form that can survive through treatment.

I was fortunate, his vision did return so that we could work in any situation again. Finally we were working as a team again, but this wasn't the end of the story

Thane had hypothyroidism and had it for years. He does not appear to have autoimmune thyroiditis. It could have come about as a result of Lyme. It doesn't really matter though what the cause of his thyroid collapse is.

This is the second Border Collie I have had with it. The labs never agreed early on- in fact both dogs were severely hypothyroid (one nearly dying on me) before the labs concurred and I finally got them treatment. With Thane, his severe anxiety and lack of energy (amidst his other symptoms) sidelined him once again. It felt unbelievable. This wouldn't be the end of it though. At this point, I began to wonder if my independence would ever be what I had back in 2009. Thane had developed a lot of anxiety including being left home alone. I had to juggle grocery shopping, help from store personnel, my own health, and his mental and exercise needs. Emotionally and physically I was way beyond spent. At least this time around, he was still able to help with most in home tasks.

Still none of this should have risen to the level of  the loss of my independence or his skills. Perhaps instead of vacations, vets should be in education regarding just what happens to partnerships like ours when they fail us-- or better yet, some serious continuing education (or perhaps re-education) on diagnosis and how to use laboratory reports as the tools they were meant to be instead of placating symptoms until a partnership dies (even if temporarily).

22 July 2013

I am Different

I found this post in the drafts folder of my blog written back in 2011. I didn't even realize it was there and frankly don't recall writing it, but I think it is worth posting as it shares the stark difference between the me of before my service dogs and the me that all of you have come to know.

 There are so many things I could write about with the theme of *The Difference* but rather than focus on my two wonderful dogs themselves or my abilities as a trainer for each of them, I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and I'm not talking so much about the good memory lane, but the one of me- who I was before Chimette came into my life, before many of you even knew I existed.

Before I even considered a service dog, I had years of fighting for my life. Through these fights, I met Adam, a wonderful young man who had every reason to be bitter, but was not. We became soulmates- escaping the rigors of medical care and the changes to our abilities and physique to peaceful places together. In the end, Adam was unable to beat the disease ravaging his body- AIDS which he developed through the administration of tainted factor 8 for his Hemophilia. After his passing I felt there was truly no purpose in life. I was not the same person I had been before- I had disabilities that I could barely spell let alone accept. Everyone told me I should be grateful that I beat my disease yet, all I felt was guilt for doing so when a person so truly awesome as Adam could not beat his. I was no fun to be around. When I wrote my poetry, it was ALWAYS dark. It was not the kind of thing you read and wanted to read over and over again. Many of my friends turned away, leaving me at least for a time because frankly I was not the person they had become friends with any more. Many were concerned about me- concerned enough to call the cops.

Fast forward several years:

No one could have fathomed, least of all me, that all it would take to bring back the old me was a beautiful six month old tri-color Border Collie Shepherd cross pup coming into my life. There was something healing about the love of that thrown away puppy. Oh the aggravations were a-plenty as I tried to figure this boy out, but in the end he would draw me out of my shell- literally reviving me back into life itself.

I actually found my smile again, spent time outdoors again, and even laughed. This dog who I adopted to train as my hearing dog would become that and so much more. Though there would be much sadness in the roller-coaster ride of vaccinosis, which drew me to the internet, to learn all I could to help my seizing service dog. I would never look back to that period of survivor's guilt that took me down so low again.

17 July 2013

Changing a Life

This post is for the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival which I am hosting here on Through a Guide's Eyes. The topic is Partnership.

A single disability can be difficult, but multiple disabilities can leave one with unimaginable struggles- especially if these disabilities are of a  progressive nature. This is exactly where I found myself beginning in the mid 80's. My body was literally falling apart, leaving me with a very poor outlook on life and frankly not the best companionship for others to be around.

I could never have imagined the changes that were just around the corner when I adopted a beautiful 6 month old tricolor Border Collie/ GSD in 1997.

At first my life turned upside down- struggling to train and care for this little devil (just kidding) that I brought into my life while coping with significant disabilities. He was a bit of a disaster, but down the road living through those early months would all be worth it-- as this little disaster was about to change my life and show me the possibilities I still had when accommodated by a service dog.

I must have lost my marbles to think that I could train my own service dog back in the late 90's when everyone's mindset was that disabled people could never do what a program does, but it was the best undertaking I ever made- an investment into my own survival and functionality.

By the late 90's, everything I did first required a major uphill battle to accomplish with the ease that others do. With limited hearing, limited eyesight, limited hand function, limited balance- so much of my time was spent trying to just function; to get through the day that there was no time or energy to actually enjoy living any more.

I adopted Chimette to be a hearing dog, but he would soon prove to me what short expectations I had-- becoming a combo trained guide, hearing, medical alert, service dog. With Met, training was in phases as my disabilities progressed. His developing bond and intelligence often resulted in instinctive moves that simply required fine tuning into refined skills I could rely on.

As a dog owner, I wasn't entirely novice- having had dogs most of my childhood. I was a novice in realizing just what our folks did to provide us with such wonderful pets- and not just time, but money too (and lots of it!)

As a trainer I was a complete novice. Here I was as this novice trainer with a Border Collie! Go ahead and laugh- I know, I know, no one with sense gets a Border Collie as their test subject of their ability to train a dog as a pet, let alone as a service dog!

Here we were though- two individuals who needed each other, bonding together in what would inevitably become one of the best partnerships imaginable.

I won't say the training was straight forward or easy, because it wasn't. I had support from a couple of friends who had trained/ were training their own service dogs which definitely helped. When I was stuck, it was these service dogs who helped Met *get it* when we could not figure another approach for the task at hand. Now, I would backchain the entire process, but as a novice, I didn't have the skills necessary or access to such great trainers to provide me the support that we all can achieve now with the explosion that has occurred on the internet, not to mention the greater acceptance of owner training.

Don't get the wrong idea with all of this. Chimette was very smart. I was learning along with him-- not just in training techniques that worked with him, but in figuring how to work with my disabilities so that I could train him. I made many training mistakes along the way (not great when you are training a Border Collie who thinks if something is done one way, one time, it must ALWAYS be done that way), but in the end, the experiences and memories were worth every one of them.

Chimette taught me things I never conceived I would learn- he taught me the true meaning of independence-- on a realm I could never have even conceived beforehand. He helped me to become a stronger person, living with multiple disabilities instead of struggling through them.

To no longer fumble trying to keep grasp on a reacher or to have to ask a person for their assistance in retrieving items, closing the door, opening the fridge, being aware of household sounds, travelling safely around the community with limited vision- brought such a dramatic change in me. You could see the difference Met made for me in my eyes as they lit up with joy each time he performed the task or I safely travelled independently in my community. It was more than that though-- one could see what he did for me through the increased level of my independence, decreased frustration, and especially my improved attitude and outlook on life.

This was all really amazing but there was so much more to come as our bond and skill working together strengthened into a true service dog partnership where it often seemed Met knew what I needed without me uttering or signing a word.

After a decade spent with Met at my side (1997-2007), it is still difficult to put into words how things changed for me other than to say, this partnership with Chimette saved my life! 

It's All About The Hard Traffic Check

This post is for the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival which I am hosting here on Through a Guide's Eyes. The topic for this carnival is Partnership

My experiences with my two partnerships have been very different. Some of this stems from my skill as a trainer and thus my confidence, but a lot of it also stems from the differences in the skillset early on. With Met, the skillset was all encompassing with a change from in-training to service dog based on the quantity of tasks and level at which he accommodated my multiple progressing disabilities.

Thane, however, was a bit more precise as well as dramatic. My disabilities were much more pronounced at this juncture so it was essential that I set priorities in the training regimen. Above all else, Met's passing left me desperate for a guide dog so this is where I focused initially with Thane's training.

Owner trainer's have various ways for defining when their candidate has passed from the in-training phase to trained dog of whatever specialty-- guide, hearing, service. As only my second owner trained dog (and an increased level of blindness), I was still a bit uncertain beyond the minimum training standards (which I greatly exceeded with Thane), when I would know that Thane was ready to graduate from in training status to guide dog.

I taught him all the commands, practiced  in every conceivable situation we would encounter together, but in the end, it all came down to a very dramatic hard traffic check. Sometimes I really believe licenses are found as freebies in cracker jacks boxes! As we began exiting the curbcut at a 4-way stop, it happened- Thane threw himself at an angle across my path preventing me from continuing forward, just as a very old man failed to stop (another pedestrian filled in that detail) flooring into the path we were headed. There were no longer any questions in my mind-- we had arrived as a guide team.

For those who are not as familiar with guide dog lingo, traffic checks are used to prevent the handler from being harmed by oncoming cars. Often times this is a result of cars who do not yield (as required by law) for pedestrians/ yellow yield arrows, driveway entrances that intersect sidewalks and the like.

Traffic checks are part of guide training, but it is the hard traffic check- the life or death situation that points to successful training and the partnership that has developed.

Since that beautiful July day in  2008, there have been many other hard traffic checks (one being such a close call that it resulted in harness friction issues), but none will ever be as exhilarating as that first one-- when Thane became my guide dog.

02 July 2013

Announcing the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Through a Guide's Eyes, invites you to participate in the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

 It's hard to believe we have hit a dozen carnivals!  I may be under the weather, but with your help, I aim to pull this off since both the month (July) and the topic are very close to my heart for both of my boys smile

If you are unfamiliar with the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, you can visit Sharon's  blog entry About the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival to learn more about it.

You do not have to be partnered with an assistance dog to participate. Perhaps you've been a puppy raiser, watched a friends' or siblings partnership blossom, maybe you are currently on a waiting list, or became a home for a retired assistance dog- all of you are invited to participate.

And the topic is:


There are many things one can write about regarding this topic. Just a few examples to get you all going (use your imaginations grin)

What does the term Partnership mean to you? What has made/ broken a partnership? When did you know you truly had a partnership (not just a green dog or trainee)?  What equipment helped to change/ save your partnership?

As you can see by these examples, there are many ways to look at Partnership.

This is a very special month for me, being that both my trainees became service dogs in the month of July. I hope that this carnival, will as well, be a very special one.

Due to my present health limitations, I request those who are able to submit your entries early rather than waiting until the last minute. Late submissions would be difficult for me. Submitting your entries early will allow me the time needed to read your entries and finalize the carnival.

You can help all participating (especially me) if you take a look at your blogs for these accessibility factors:

Have you turned captcha off so everyone can comment on your posts

Have you checked your blogs for flashing  imagery (some hosts add these seasonally without the bloggers' knowledge) by turning these off, you make your blog accessible to me and others with seizure and vision disorders

Are you using background and text colors that are easy to read

If you have included photos, did you add alternative text?

If you are using videos (prefer you do not), are they clear, or could they be a trigger for individuals with seizure disorders, vertigo/ nausea issues ? Have you included a transcript of the video?

These are just some areas where you can make your blogs more accessible

You can submit your entries by adding a  comment to this entry or by emailing them to me bcpaws4me at gmail dot com

Submissions due: July 25, 2013

Happy blogging everyone